I attended two self-help group meetings in Bangkok, an AA and NA meeting. The NA meeting was at a local Christian Church, while meeting was a meeting within a local rehab. Both the NA and AA meetings were very similar in format. The meetings ran very smoothly and organized and reminded of a group therapy session. Group members were able to share the experiences with and hardships with their struggle to stop using drugs and alcohol.

At the NA meeting, since the members were aware that we were observing, it members seemed somewhat reluctant to share in the beginning. However, once an older member bean to talk, the other group members quickly followed suit. Since the group members were aware that we were observing from a counseling psychology university program, a few of the members took the opportunity to explain how psychology, rehabs, and psychiatry had failed to help them. Since I am familiar with the NA and AA culture, I wasn’t surprised to hear this, as AA and NA members have a tendency to be distrustful of any treatment options outside of NA and AA. I believe this is a cultural aspect of NA an AA—serving as a way to regulate the in and out group status of its members.

The AA meeting within the rehab was a topic meeting. The topic was “excess baggage.” The idea was to learn to let go of past (e.g., failures, problems, shortcomings, etc.) in order to focus more on the future and learn to lead more positive and sober life. The format of the meeting was open discussion.

Several people spoke openly about their pasts, their regrets, and coping strategies.  As the people spoke, I realized that this discussion served as a catharsis for those speaking. They were able to get things “off of their chests,” while also not being judged or reprimanded in any form by others. Furthermore, the AA meeting was basically group therapy for all those in attendance.

Overall, I don’t think the main point of the meetings was to tell serve as a catharsis, as well as get support from others with similar problems. I can see how these meetings are very helpful to those who are struggling with addiction. Although certain aspects of AA and NA seem rather old fashioned, I believe it is a helpful resource to keep in mind when counselors or psychologist are working with clients who may be dealing with an addiction.


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